MANAHAWKIN – In Southern Regional’s 20-0 victory over Lakewood on Sept. 29, head coach Charles Donohue Sr. recorded his 250th win in his illustrious 48-year coaching career.
“You coach that many years and you should get to 250 wins,” Donohue said with a laugh. “It’s really about staying healthy all these years and being lucky that way, having a supportive family that has allowed me to do it every year, and coaching takes a lot of time. Football is a year-round sport now with weight room, camps and clinics in the summer. It’s not a three-month sport like it was a long time ago.”
Donohue is in his 20th season leading the Southern football program. He started as an assistant under Jimmy Gallagher at St. Joseph Hammonton in 1971 before taking over the program in 1974.
“I grew up with his younger brother Tommy and Jimmy asked me to be an assistant at St. Joe’s,” Donohue said. “I did that and he left and took a job in Cape May three years later, and I got the head coaching job. Here we are 45 years later.”
Donohue remained at St. Joe’s until 1981, when he moved to Haddon Heights. He coached there for five years before moving to Buena Regional in 1986. He took the job at Southern in 1998, and has been there ever since. Throughout his coaching career, he has been surrounded with very supportive co-workers.
“I’ve had very loyal, hardworking assistant coaches over the years at every school I’ve been,” Donohue said. “I’ve never had a problem with administration. And I’ve always been a lucky guy in terms of having the community support the teams. Some guys have one head coaching job and don’t have any of that going for them. I’ve been at four different places and I can honestly say at all four, I’ve had all the things that are necessary to build programs. We’ve always had kids who worked hard in the weight room and showed they were athletes by playing other sports, and knowing they gave their best on the field.”
Donohue has remained at Southern for 20 years in part because he has long admired the Shore Conference and he was given an opportunity to coach at a bigger school, which was something he felt would be a good move.
“I’ve enjoyed the stay,” Donohue said. “I came to Southern when I was 50, which was an older age to make that kind of move. I had always been an admirer of the Shore Conference, and that goes back to when I first started coaching. Running into those guys at clinics and I knew how much football was important in Ocean and Monmouth counties with big crowds and rivalries. I had always been at smaller schools, and this was an opportunity to go to a big school. I also spent my summers on Long Beach Island as a kid. It was really a combination of those things. At 50, you’re not going to get many opportunities for big school jobs based on where I had been. They gave me a shot and it worked out very well.”
Donohue taught Physical Education up until three years ago when he retired from teaching, which he says allows him to get a lot more done as a coach.
Donohue’s love of football started at a young age. He went to games on the weekends with his uncle and went onto play collegiately at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) under Richard Wackar, who is the one person that made him realize he wanted to coach.
“I had an uncle who really loved high school football,” Donohue said. “I grew up outside of Philly and we would go to a game on Saturday, the small schools would play on Saturday morning at 10:30. I had family that played at those schools and he would take me to their games. In the afternoon, the big schools played and we would go to those games. On Sundays, the Catholic League played. The NFL back in the 1950s wasn’t that big a deal. I would go to a Catholic League football game with him. That’s when I really fell in love with the sport. I played at Glassboro State under Richard Wackar and he was the guy who really made me want to coach. Jimmy hired me for a Phys Ed job at St. Joe’s when I was coming out of school, and it all fell into place.”
Donohue gets to work with his son, Charles Donohue Jr., who is the athletic director at Southern Regional. Donohue Jr. was working at Egg Harbor Township when Southern was looking to hire many teachers. After he got hired, Donohue Sr. brought him onto his coaching staff. He took the athletic director position about eight years ago, and he continues to work with the offensive linemen when his schedule allows him to.
With family being so important for Donohue Sr., having his son with him is special.
“When Chuck got the athletic director job, he technically became my boss and truthfully, it’s worked out very well,” Donohue said. “We’ve been able to handle the difference between at work and not work. He’s been able to stay in touch with the football program when his schedule allows, he comes over and helps out with the offensive line. The opportunity to coach with him has been one of the best things that has happened to me over the years.”
Donohue has coached a lot of players and taught a lot of students over the years, and he feels the game of football is a great experience for kids, and he has felt connected to his kids long after they graduate.
“Football is a game that tests you every day,” Donohue said. “It tests you in season and out of season. There’s no hiding because everything you do is on film. I think for kids growing up, it’s a tremendous experience. Coaching is great because you help your kids as much as you can for as long as you can. I’ve felt obligated to those kids years after they finish playing.”